24 March 2006

Squat Buildings Live in Midtown

Since I spent some time earlier this week trashing the owner of P.J. Clarke's new venture in the Financial District, I thought it only fair to report that I dined at the original, two-story, red-brick P.J. Clarke's on Third Avenue and 55th Street and am happy to report that the old temple of beer and burgers is still alive and well. Three deep at the bar and plenty of diners in the back. My cheeseburger was savory and delicious, and not of the impossibly monstrous size served up by most burger joints these days. The waiter had that smooth, no-nonsense efficiency that you want in such a place down pat, with just the right touch of politeness. And the bathroom was as ever. It occured to me while standing under the arched stained glass room of the men's room that pissing into the elephantine white urinals of P.J. Clarke's is one of the defining privileges of living in New York City. Too bad women can't enjoy it.

Attracting my interest during my stay were two cubby holes tucked into the small dining area just past the bar. Turn to the left or right and crane your neck and you'll spot two tables secreted away from the din of the room. The lucky diners at these four-tops can barely be glimpsed. The alcoves were obviously designed to accomodate the Tammany Hall chieftains of days gone by, allowing them privacy as they worked out their back-room deals. Who gets them now, I wonder? I can't imagine you can just walk in and ask for one. They must be reserved for regulars. However, I am now determined to claim one upon my next visit. But first I'll have to come up with a couple guests to join me, a back-room deal to work out, and a double sawbuck to slip the maitre'd.

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